Skip to main content

Full text of "The bride of Huitzil; an Aztec legend"

See other formats






,.* 









AS5B7 
W22. 




The Bride of/fuitz,// 




N 



N 



M 



BRIDE OF 
flUITZIL 

An A&tec Legend 



BY 



HERVEY ALLEN 



NEW YORK 

James F. Drake^ Inc. 

1922 



N 
N 

M 
N 

N 
N 
^ 



N 

N 

^ 



COPYRIGHT 1922 

BY 
HERVEY ALLEN 



To a dead child 




T//E BRIDE OF 
flUITZIL 



Here begins the first scroll with the sign of a 
bundle of reeds tied about with a string, 
which is the symbol of fifty-two years. 

IN Anahuac there reigned a king 
Some fifty summers old, 
The bloody darling of his gods, 
Who sent him luck and gold 
And captives from a thousand fights, 
And victory in each war; 



The Bride offfuitzil 

No mercy kept within his heart 

He trusted in his star. 

But doubts began to sap his mind, 

For he was growing old. 

The gods he feared might turn unkind; 

He gave them plundered gold 

And hung their images with hearts 

Like roses on a bride, 

And all the young slaves from the marts 

On Huitzil's altars died.* 

The priests got everything they sought. 

They said the gods were wroth; 

They had the rolls of tribute brought 

Chose bales of twisted cloth, 

And cloaks of richest feather-work, 

And opals set in gilt, 

And many a keen obsidian knife 

With carved and curious hilt, 

And pearls for which their wives would quarrel, 

And bags of cochineal, 

And carefully matched and scarlet coral, 

And chests of yellow meal, 

And rainbow skins of quetzal birds, 

* Huiteilopochtli, the Mexican Mars. 
2 



The Bride offfu/tzi/ 

Lip jewels, and each a ring; 

And all they gave was doubtful words 

No comfort to the king. 

Huitzil, they said, was sorely vexed; 

Tlaloc would send no rain; ' 

The more they kept the king perplexed 

The more they had to gain. 
"Gold I have given," said the king, 
"And victims for the feasts; 

What more is there that I can bring ?" 
"Bring beauty!" said the priests. 
"Send runners swift to each cacique* 

With scrolls of your command; 

In hut and palace bid them seek 

Fair virgins through the land; 

Then bring them here and choose the maid 

Who most shall please your eyes, 

And have her as your bride arrayed, 

And led to sacrifice." 



So buzzing rumor rose and spread 
Like locusts through the land; 

* Cacique, Chief or lord of a district. 

3 



The Bride o 

The king would choose a wife, men said: 

And chiefs on every hand 

Snatched maidens from the cotton-looms. 

Girls, grinding maize for cakes, 

Captives for Tenochtitlan, 

The city 'mid five lakes. 

Across the causeways, borne by slaves, 

The trembling virgins came; 

They saw the Smoking Hill that laves* 

Its molten sides in flame. 

Canoes along the causeway's sides 

Kept near; on rafts the throngs 

Burned lamps to welcome home the brides; 

Far rowers sang strange songs. 

Now when the moon was fully grown, 

The king left his abode 

To sit upon the judgment throne 

Set in the "Place of God," 

Massive with polished seat of jade; 

A skull was his footstool. 

The arras on the wall was made 

Of beasts' hair wove like wool. 

* 'Popocatepetl^ which means the Smoking Hill. 

4 



The Bride off/uitzi/ 

There, while a scribe announced the dower, 

The women came, so fair 

Young warriors whispered, and their plumes 

Bent, nodding, as when air 

Of summer stirs the fronded trees 

Along a mountain wall, 

Where pigeons' wooings lull the breeze 

And snow-fed rivers fall. 

And so they passed from morn till noon: 

First came a princess in; 

Like polished bronze beneath the moon 

Was her smooth, olive skin; 

But rumor in the market place 

Told of a strangled lover, 

Of silver masks made of his face;* 

The priests said, "Choose another !" 

Then daughters of rich merchants came, 

Dowered with silver T's.t 

With downcast eyes, they were too tame; 

Huitzil would none of these. 

* A certain Aztec princess who enjoyed a new youth each night. After 
strangling him, she had his silver death mask made. Her chamber 
walls shone with their pale lustre. 

t In ancient Mexico the money was cast in the shape of a 'T\ 



The Bride offfuitzil 

And daughters of Tlascala's chiefs,* 

Bringing a precious dower 

Their fathers' friendship, with rich fiefs 

Boasting a warlike power. 

Pale girls from Huexotzinco's shades, 

Where willows cool the air, 

From far Tlaxcallan, sun-burned maids, 

Bronzed in the cornfields there. 

Girls from Cholula's pyramid, 

Born by its terraced side 

The morning shadows waned and hid; 

The king had found no bride ! 

Then came a maid straight as a spear, 

Lithe as the bending maize 

When only silk is in the ear; 

Upon her eyes a haze. 

She walked with all a panther's grace, 

And like a pleasant tune 

Her voice, and her round breasts were firm 

As rosebuds in young June. 

And as a cougar longs for meat, 

The king desired the maid. 

He cast an arrow at her feet 

A sign his choice was made. 

* TIascala, the Sparta of Mexico. 

6 



The Bride offfu/tzi/ 

The priests on twisted conch-shells blew, 
Shouted the market place; 
Hatred of Huitzil seized the king; 
He loved the maiden's face. 
She was a huntress, fair but poor, 
Sleek puma skins her dower, 
Traced through the jungle by their spoor 
Past many a vine-closed bower, 
Tracked to the hills and brought to bay, 
Slain by the ice-green streams, 
With the hissing arrow at break of day, 
When the wakened eagle screams. 
But when the high priest found the king 
Had chosen her for bride, 
He raged at heart to hear the thing 
'No dower" hurt his pride 
And avarice; and straightway he sent 
Down to the king's abode, 
To say that sunset was the time 
To bring her to the god. 
The king's house rang with happiness 
And sound of marriage gongs; 
Ten maidens helped the bride to dress, 
While slave girls sang old songs; 
7 



The Bride offfuitzil 

She was arrayed in cloaks of plumes 
From birds of paradise, 
Woven on feather-workers' looms. 
More gorgeous than bright dyes, 
Lined with the down of humming-birds. 
Trimmed with the parrot's wing; 
And compliments as smooth as curds 
And jewels came from the king, 
And gifts brought by his brother's wife 
With well dissembled smile 
Wishes for children and long life 
Whispered with subtle guile. 
Meantime the king had gone aside, 
His heart and brain at odds 
Whether to keep his lovely bride 
Or give her to the gods. 
At sunset, in a silver litter 
He brought her through the city, 
Still doubtful, and his heart grew bitter 
Struggling with fear and pity. 
White flowers fell before the maiden 
He crushed them with his feet. 
The air with garden scents was laden, 
Mad dancers filled the street. 
8 



The Bride o 

Before cruel Huitzil's pyramid 

She waited for the king. 

He loved her so, fear of the gods 

Now seemed a foolish thing. 

Something to laugh at and to scorn, 

A sick thought he had dreamed, 

Vaguely recalled at early morn 

So Huitzil's vengeance seemed. 

Fresh courage flushed his veins, as spring 

With new sap thrills an oak, 

And he remembered he was king; 

Never a word he spoke. 

A grim smile sat upon his face; 

He led her up the stair, 

Up to the holy level space, 

Where chanting smote the air. 



Before the fire, priests knelt in lines. 
A beast-mask was afoot: 
Prayers droned like night-winds in the pines. 
Painted with blood and soot, 
The high priest cried, as though in prayer, 
'Bring hither Huitzil's bride! 
9 



The Bride offfuitzi/ 

Be swift, point out the victim, king !" 
And she smiled by his side. 
Gazing about with narrowed eyes 
Like puma's in the sun. 
While priests prepared for sacrifice, 
He saw his brother's son 
How merciful to send him death 
And spare him life's sure pains 
Death's but a stupor at the worst, 
A languor in the veins ! 
Straightway he pointed out the child, 
Who instantly was hid 
By the swift dancers in a breath 
Across the pyramid 
They swept him to the waiting stone, 
Bull-rattles drowned his cries; 
Before he died, he saw his heart 
Held up before his eyes. 
The high priest raged behind his mask : 
But yet he dared not falter. 
He joined the king to Huitzil's bride 
Before the god's own altar, 
Knowing the king's cup must be full 
And vengeance would abide. 
10 



The Bride ofHuitz.il 

That night the king laughed in his heart 
And slept with Huitzil's bride. 




Here ends the first scroll with the picture of 
a man sitting upon the ground, 
which is the sign of an earth- 
quake , or troubles 



to come. 




II 

Here begins the second scroll with the picture 
of a footprint y which is a sign that someone 
goes upon a journey. 

THE king held revels in the town 
Next evening, and there came 
Chieftains and minstrels of renown 
To taste the roasted game 
And drink strong mescal to the bride, 
But there no priests were bid; 
Scowling, the high priest hied him down 
From Huitzil's pyramid 
13 



The Bride offfuitzi/ 

To the long palace in the town, 

Where many litters fared. 

And wrangling bearers set guests down. 

And sputtering torches flared 

With fluxing light along the walls, 

And music's measured din 

Sounded above the idlers' calls, 

While rich guests hurried in. 

The sentries talked before the doors, 

But in a time of gloom 

The priest sneaked in down corridors 

Past many an empty room 

For all were at the king's repast; 

Slaves near each darkened door 

Slept by their earthen lamps. At last 

He found upon the floor 

The mother of the child he'd slain, 

Pallid from many tears 

Shed in her agony from pain 

That scarcely dulls with years. 

She knew him standing there. 

Nothing was said. 

Her face she covered with her hair 

And lay as dead. 



The Bride oftfuitz.il 

"Hail, mother," said the priest, 
"Where is your little one, 

The king's dead brother's son ? 

Does he sit with his uncle at the feast, 

Whence they will bring him, sleepy, 
to your side ? 

Is he still smiling there 

Where marriage torches flare, 

And warriors drain the pulque to the bride?" 

Then with a voice grown weak 

with many tears, 

She spoke, as in a dream, and said, 
"Yours was the hand that slew him 

on the stone 
You know that he is dead." 
The far feasters shouted and he heard 

her moan. 

"Yes," said the priest, "Mine was the hand, 
But by the king's command, not mine he died. 
He died in place of Huitzil's bride 
And needs no funeral, 
For now he serves the gods 



The Bride ofJFfuitz.il 

In the high mountain glen 
Where Huitzil sits at everlasting feast 
And morning sunshine bathes the wall; 
His spirit is at peace with them." 
"It is his body that I want/' 
The mother said, "His little feet 
Dear little feet, that I shall hear no more ! 
Each footfall was a stroke upon my heart; 
His voice that called me 'mother' at the door; 
What could the gods want with my child ? 
His shoes wait still and empty by the bed, 
And his soft kisses I shall feel no more, 
Oh, he is gone is dead !" 

And then the priest poured in her ear 
How the high gods were wronged; 
How he had slain the lad from fear, 
And how the bride belonged 
To Huitzil and the ruthless king 
Slept in a cursed bed. 

"He lives," she gasped fire swept her brain 

"And my sweet son is dead!" 

"Avenge yourself!" replied the priest, 

"Arise, put gladness on, 

16 



The Bride offfuiml 

Win near the king at his bad feast; 

An hour before the dawn, 

A priest will bring the holy dish, 

The heart of your young son; 

Persuade the king to grant this wish 

And your revenge is won : 

Ask him to let you bless the sacrifice; 

But you must choose 

To taste the heart with him, lest otherwise, 

Suspecting, he refuse; 

But when you spread your hands to bless 

the dish, 

Bless with your lips and curse within, 
And pray to Huitzil for revenge, 
And drop this in. 

It is a subtle pearl of death; 

No more by her soft side 

In dalliance, with deep-taken breath, 

The king shall seek his bride, 

But sleep will lead him to the couch of death, 

And death to strange abodes; 

Then you will be revenged, 

And I shall claim his loved one for the gods." 



The Bride offfuitzil 

She rose, and washed away her tears. 
And put bright colors on. 
Long pendant ear-rings in her ears 
Meanwhile the priest had gone 
She clutched the poison in her hand, 
Resolved to play her part, 
And by the great door took her stand 
While rage surged in her heart. 
The room shone with a noonday glare- 
Torches on silver urns 
Steam from hot dishes rose in air, 
Wild songs were sung by turns; 
Huge turkeys in their feathers dressed 
Smoked down the crowded board; 
From earthen jars behind each guest 
Brown slaves the pulque poured. 
She stood long by the entrance door 
And listened to the feast, 
Bronze spear-butts rang upon the floor 
In honor to the priest 
Who brought the king the holy meat, 
Hot from the temple fires 
Huge dish to hide so small a heart! 
"Silence!" proclaimed the criers. 

18 



The Bride offfuitzil 

The priest strode down the banquet hall, 
The woman following after. 
Chill silence fell upon them all. 
The slave girls ceased their laughter. 
He set the dish down, and they heard 
The mumbled words of prayer. 
The woman stood without a word; 
No one could brave her stare. 
Only a blind slave mouthed a bone. 
A dog the silence broke 
Hunting in dreams, he gave a moan. 
The king arose and spoke. 



'Sister," he said, "what brings you here, 
Where weeping has no place? 
Have you no tears for your dead child? 
I see none on your face." 
'None;" said the woman, "I have wept, 
But now I weep no more, 
My tearful vigil has been kept. 
Children have died before! L 
I come to show all Anahuac 
No woman is above 



The Bride offfuitzi/ 

Bearing her children for the gods. 
Duty is more than love! 
Therefore, give me the holy dish 
To bless it to your use, 
For that is all I ask a wish 
Custom can scarce refuse." 
But the king tried the woman's soul, 
Delayed, and shook his head, 
And held aloft the steaming bowl, 
Pondered awhile, and said, 
'Sup with me from the holy dish. 
If you but taste the heart, 
Then you may bless it as you wish, 
And afterward depart." 
Tea," said the woman, "I will taste 
The heart of my own son 
If I may bless it; but make haste, 
The night is nearly done." 
Smiling, he took away the cover. 
She gave a cry and start, 
Then spread her hands and held them over 
The little smoking heart. 
Trembling, she blessed with hands outspread, 
But writhed and cursed within 
20 



The Bride off/uitzi/ 

And prayed for vengeance on his head 

And dropped the sleep-pearl in. 

Then stifling horror in her soul, 

She tasted of the heart. 

And then the king supped from the bowl, 

And let her straight depart. 

She sought her lonely, shadowed room, 

And there, with fluttering breath, 

She blew the light out, and in gloom 

Slept to a welcome death. 



Then a slave struck upon a gong, 
And each guest 
Departed with much talk, 
And some with song; 
And the bride left with her maidens 
To their rest. 

But the king sat sleeping there alone. 
The torches died away, 
Glimmering to their sockets in the stone, 
While far dogs bayed 
The last belated revelers going home. 
Only the blind slave sat behind the door, 
21 



The Bride of fluitzil 

Mumbling an endless tune. 

Peering with eyeballs dim; 

Outside there sank the moon, 

But light and darkness were alike to him. 




Here ends the second scroll with the sign of 

a skull set with turquoise stones, 

which is the symbol of Coat- 

licue y the Goddess 

of Death. 




in 

begins the third scroll with the sign of a 
man in a black canoe, which is the symbol 
of a soul crossing the Lake of Death. 

AND no one dared awake the king 
He slept to him it seemed 
White vapor covered everything, 
And through its rifts there gleamed 
A figure striding through the mist; 
Dimly he saw the head, 
The white skull set with turquoise stones, 
The goddess of the dead. 

23 



The Bride o 

Now at the hour before the dawn, 
When owlets cease to call, 
He put a cloak of black skins on 
And walked forth from the hall, 
Across the terrace, down the stair, 
Along an empty street, 
Where the lone watchman felt his hair 
Rise at the soundless feet. 
But to the dying king it seemed 
As though he moved with ease 
Upon a journey he had dreamed 
No weight above his knees 
So from his house he passed away, 
Down to the stony strand 
Where the black water of the lake 
Whimpered against the land. 
And there he hailed a boatman dim 
Who gave a toothless scream 
And motioned to wade out to him; 
Cold as a mountain stream 
He felt the lake rise to his chin; 
It seemed to strike him through 
And freeze his heart but he plunged in, 
And clutched the black canoe. 
24 



The Bride of fluit&il 

And the blind boatman helped him up, 

Gave him a drink of blood; 

Far in the lake he tossed the cup. 

And straight across the flood 

They moved like stars across the night, 

Passing a fisher's raft 

Where, seated by a flickering light, 

A brown child sat and laughed, 

Kissing again her painted doll; 

She screamed at the strange sight 

The shadowy boatman tall 

The boat as black as night. 

And they passed fishermen's canoes, 

Anchored in shallow spots 

Where nets were staked among the crews 

Fires glowed in earthen pots 

And chinampaSy where in tended rows* 

White, cherished orchids grew. 

They saw far mountain snows 

Glimmer against the blue 

Of night that now turned faintly gray, 

And the wide lake grew flushed 

With the first scarlet of the day 

* CAinampas, Floating garden rafts. 

25 



The Bride offluitz.il 

As on they rushed. 

But the king looked toward the shore, 

And saw they left no wake. 

The long streak gleamed that shows before 

The sun bursts on the lake. 

Vague lay the city and the land, 

Veiled by a rain or tears 

Where he had ruled with ruthless hand 

Dreams mirrored back dead years : 



Childhood and little shells brought to 
his mother. 

On the beach at sunset when the lake 
grew dark; 

Young faces of his playmates In old days, 
And the first lusts of his strong youth. 
The look of his first love, now long since dead; 
And walks among the maize fields 
with his friend, 

And that great day the high priest 
hailed him king 

Long lines of warriors charging home, 
with streaming feathers, 
26 



The Bride offiuhz.il 

And the crash of shields, 

The spurting arc of blood from one he smote 

upon the neck in battle; 

Houses and streets^ and sights; 

And cunning thoughts , and plans that 

he had made in the dim city 

^here across the lake, 

'That he should see no more. 



But now they neared a porphyry cliff 
Where lingered blacker night, 
And from the prow of the dark skiff 
The king beheld a light 
That burned upon a landing place 
Where a stream cleft the land, 
And the torch showed his nephew's face 
Shaded by one small hand. 
There the king leaped ashore, 
And followed up the steep ravine. 
The naked child went on before; 
On pools there fell the sheen 
Of his young body in the light, 
And the king heard his echoed calls 
27 



The Bride offiuitzM 

And followed after through the night, 

Up slippery waterfalls 

On rough steps hollowed by the stream, 

Up to the high plateaus 

Where far across the valley gleam 

IztaccihuatTs snows.* 

Then they glowed ruddy in the dawn 

And the valley, one huge cup, 

Lay shining, city and lake and lawn; 

The sun was coming up. 

In the morning light they stood alone 

Upon a spine-like crest, 

And the child took a jagged stone 

Out from his empty breast, 

And said, "The gods have sent you this; 

They bid you to their feast. 

The place you will not miss: 

It lies due east." 

Then in the shadows of the place 

He seemed to melt away 

As a smile fades from the face 

And it was day. 

* One of the twin volcanoes in the valley of Mexico. The name means 
"The White Woman" from cihuatl, woman. The form of the mountain 
suggested the name. 

28 



The Bride of tfuittil 

But the king pressed on across the plain 

Where in long, dusty lines 

The sand blew, for there fell scant rain; 

The lizard with sharp spines 

Hid mid the myriad cactus thorns, 

And swifts would dart and cling, 

And the toad blinked beneath his horns, 

And birds never sing. 

Ever the king rose higher, 

Where gila monsters slept by dens 

And the slopes grew drier 

Into the huge and solitary glens, 

Wounds of a lonely world, 

About whose beetling cliffs 

The little clouds lay curled. 

Framed at the end of one long vale 
Was cleft a narrow gate, 
A rocky entrance to the dale, 
The only break 

In the black cliffs to left and right; 
It looked into the sky 
As one square window frames the light. 
To this the king drew nigh. 
29 



The Bride off/uitzi/ 

Suddenly he heard 

The sound of stricken metal, 

Like a spoken word, 

And loud ringing gongs, 

The shivering clash 

Of cymbals, and the crash 

Of drums, and timbrels with the noise 

Of piping, and shrill songs of gelded boys. 

Around, around him swept a howling rout 

Of dancers in the masks of beasts, 

With toss of feet and arms about 

Like crazy drinkers at wild feasts; 

These swept him to the gate, and there 

Back to the rock caves fled, 

Leaving flat silence on the air 

And a dumb dread. 

But through the gate he made his way, 
Cut in the hill's midriff, 
And found the sun with whitest day 
Beating upon a cliff 
That fell sheer to the valley dim; 
And when the clouds would lift, 
He saw the far landscape swim 
30 



The Bride offfuitzi/ 

Glimmering through the rift. 

Then, reeling from the gaping height, 

Back through a lava alley, 

Stumbling on rocks in the half-light, 

He came into a valley, 

The hollow of a cup-shaped hill, 

Where the long clouds lay 

And all was gray and still. 

There at their everlasting feast, 

Around a table carved about 

With many a tigerish beast 

And faces, heavy-lipped, that pout 

In stone, the gods sat 

Totec, parrot-faced, with stony stare, 

And the water goddess fat, 

With writhing serpents in her hair; 

Huitzil, with flickering plumes 

Of waving fire above his head, 

And white-skulled Coatlicue, 

The goddess of the dead; 

Tlaloc, god of rain, with beryl eyes, 

Who gloats on children brought 

And slain to him with dismal cries, 

3* 



The Bride offfuitz.il 

In withering times of draught; 

And Tezcat, lord of sharp obsidian, 

And Quetzalcoatl with his golden curls, 

Worshipped at Tlacopan 

With sacrifice at noontide hours 

Of copal gum, while girls 

Bring heaps of fruit and flowers. 

In blue folds his snake was curled, 

The holy snake with crest 

Of feathers, lord of this green world, 

Swathed in a rustling nest 

Of maize leaves the wise god, 

That makes the rain, and harvest wave, 

And the grain ripen in the pod. 

Now a desperate courage seized the king; 

He dropped his warrior's cloak 

And threw away his plumes and ring, 

Drew near, and spoke: 



'Naked to judgment, Merciless Ones, I come, 
Nor fear the tomb, 
Knowing that what I did was done 
By your own doom." 
32 



The Bride offluitz.il 

Then the gods counseled among themselves, 

Muttering like summer thunder, 

As when the distant earthquake delves 

Beneath the hills, and wonder 

Falls on the cities of the plain 

At the vast, rocking rumble 

Then terror, and men flee in vain, 

And the high towers tumble. 

So spoke the gods, and a thick gloom 

Came upon everything 

While the serpent hissed their doom 

Upon the king. 



'One act of mercy spoils a life 

Of fragrant slaughter full. 

Since you are nothing 

Neither merciless nor merciful, 

Your doom is this: 

You shall be hurled 

From a cliff 

And this good world to nothingness. 3 

So spoke the serpent in a hiss. 



33 



The Bride o 



Then Huitzil seized a monster spear 

And drove the king along the path. 

His soul now first knew fear 

At the beast laugh 

The gods gave once he looked back, 

But following after, 

Huge Huitzil strode upon his track, 

Shaking with laughter. 

Now the far valley burst upon his view 

With rolling hill and plain, 

Cloud-shadowed to the mountains blue. 

He stood upon the cliff again 

Tottered and heard an eagle scream 

Then suddenly he seemed to fall 

As one falls in a dream. 



Down in the palace in the town, 
The king's body stirred and cried 
A fearful cry, and startled slaves ran in; 
And rumor spread that he had died. 
Then came a loud uproar 
And the priests raged outside, 
34 



The Bride offluitz.il 

And with stone hammers smote upon the door 
And Huitzil claimed his bride. 




Here ends the third scroll with the sign 

of a closed eye, which is 

the symbol of 

death. 



Three hundred and fifty copies printed at 
the Press of William Edwin Rudge, Mount 

Uernon, N. T. Typography by Bruce Rogers. 

Decorations by Eernhardt Wall. 



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY 




MIU 



&-V ( 



I 



&n 



iWf: 
'. , ) 



%^; 

r-^ r ^ 



r^>y^ 

f i5-: V-ftYl !